California's Silicon Valley is a microcosm of America's new extremes of wealth and poverty. Business is better than it's been in a decade, with companies like Facebook, Google and Apple minting hundreds of new tech millionaires. But not far away, the homeless are building tent cities along a creek in the city of San Jose. Homelessness rose 20 percent in the past two years, food stamp participation is at a 10-year high, and the average income for Hispanics, who make up a quarter of the area's population, fell to a new low of about $19,000 a year in a place where the average rent is $2000 a month.
As this week's Moyers & Companyremembers Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy in economic justice as well as civil rights, we visit Silicon Valley to bring you this story about modern-day poverty and inequality. We talk to Cindy Chavez of Working Partnerships USA; Russell Hancock of Joint Venture Silicon Valley; Martha Mendoza, an AP writer whose recent piece about Silicon Valley poverty brought this story to our attention; Daniel Garcia, who became homeless after losing his job in a Google campus restaurant; and Teresa Frigge, a homeless woman who used to make the silicon chips that give the valley its name.
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In 1957, decades before Steve Jobs dreamed up Apple or Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, a group of eight brilliant young men defected from the Shockley Semiconductor Company in order to start their own transistor business. Their leader was 29-year-old Robert Noyce, a physicist with a brilliant mind and the affability of a born salesman who would co-invent the microchip — an essential component of nearly all modern electronics today, including computers, motor vehicles, cell phones and household appliances.
I think you can credit Bob Noyce for being the first technology entrepreneur CEO, in the sense that he built a company that was wholly dedicated to being on the absolute cutting edge of technology... perpetually. The zenith of that is probably Apple Computer in the 21st century. The prototype for that is Intel in the 1960's and Seventies, where you build a company that is purely technology driven. You're not even sure what industries you're gonna be building for after a certain point. You're just driving the technology forward at breakneck pace and seeing what emerges from it all and then coping with it. It's a very, very interesting business model that never existed before and really begins with Intel.
By the time Intel introduced the microprocessor, the Santa Clara Valley bore little resemblance to the verdant farmland it had been 15 years earlier when William Shockley set up shop.
The number of high-technology jobs in the area had increased ten-fold since 1959, and the population of San Jose — the valley's largest city — had more than doubled, to nearly half a million. As consumer applications for the microprocessor began to proliferate, venture capitalists rushed in — gradually replacing the military and NASA as the financial backbone of the industry.